ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Dallas Seavey, the four-time Iditarod champion who skipped last year’s race after being accused in a dog-doping scandal, will race again this year in Norway even though he has been cleared of any wrongdoing by officials in the Alaska race.
Seavey said Friday that he plans to compete in the Finnmarkslopet race in Norway, which starts about a week after the Iditarod, considered the world’s most famous sled dog race. The Iditarod begins March 3.
After the 2017 race, in which Seavey placed second, race officials said some dogs on his team tested positive for an opioid painkiller. They said they could not prove he gave the drug tramadol to his dogs and didn’t punish him.
Seavey adamantly denied giving his dogs drugs and sat out the 2018 race in protest, opting to race in Norway instead.
This past year, after four new board members were installed on the race’s governing body, the Iditarod Trail Committee, the board cleared Seavey of any wrongdoing.
“After several meetings with Dallas Seavey, and review of all relevant information and evidence, the board does not believe that Dallas had any involvement with, or knowledge of, the events that led to the positive test in his team,” a December release said. “The ITC concludes that it is not credible that Dallas was involved, and he is found to have committed no wrong doing. Whatever happened was completely beyond his control.”
Seavey told The Associated Press on Friday that no one should interpret this as him having hard feelings against the Iditarod. Instead, he has unfinished business in Norway, where he came in third last year.
“It’s a puzzle I haven’t yet figured out, and I want to go back over there and give it another run,” he said. “I feel like I’m much better prepared now to set my team up for success on the race, knowing what the race is like.”
The 31-year-old Seavey said he has been around the Iditarod since he was 5 years old, and his family’s history with the race traces back to his grandfather, Dan Seavey, who ran the first two races in 1973 and 1974.
“I’ll be back to the Iditarod,” he said, describing the draw of the Finnmarkslopet this year as “an exciting adventure.”
Chas St. George, the interim head of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, said he believes the decision to run in Norway was the right one for Seavey. Besides the Iditarod, Seavey has also won the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race between Canada and Alaska.
“He is a competitor, and I’m sure he would like to be the first to win all three,” St. George said in an email.
Seavey said he doesn’t have a major sponsor, and the only hitch in this plan would be funding. The Alaska man needs to raise about $25,000 for training and travel costs associated with getting himself and at least 14 dogs to Norway and back.
He also needs to offset the lower prize money in Norway. Last year, he said, he collected about $5,000 for finishing third. By contrast, Dallas’ father, Mitch Seavey, picked up just over $39,000 for placing third in last year’s Iditarod. Norwegian Joar Ulsom collected about $50,000 and a new pickup for winning his first Iditarod.
Dallas Seavey won the Iditarod, the annual thousand-mile race between the Anchorage area and Nome, in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.